Monthly Archives: August 2014

Made it through about 8 pages of a script I was sent a couple of days ago. I had to stop reading. It wasn’t the story, I don’t think. I have no idea because I couldn’t wade through the misspellings and atrocious grammar to get to it.

Maybe some of them were typos. There’s not a writer alive that can find every single typo in a script. But most of them were sheer laziness and probably based on the attitude of “If they buy it, they’ll fix it. It’s the story that counts.” I’ve actually heard more than one writer say this or something similar to me in the past.

They are wrong. Spelling and grammar matter in a script. It reflects on how serious you are taken as a writer. Making the read as smooth and mistake free as you can is essential to getting your story told. Every misspelling or massive grammatical error takes the reader out of your story and focuses them on how poor the writer is for leaving them there.

Your writing reflects you. And getting anyone, besides your family and close friends, to read your script is an accomplishment. What you want is for them to want to read more, to love what you do and your style, to get them on board with you as a writer. Bad grammar and spelling does the opposite.

Yes, scriptwriting is different. We can all acknowledge that. You can write in fragmented sentences. You can break any and all grammar rules in dialogue if you have to. You can even break some spelling rules in dialogue to get a character’s syntax across. That works. But systemic spelling problems on every page will get your script tossed, in my opinion. Ur is not a substitute for Your. Twitter speak in your action lines is not the best way to get your story across.

Every program has spellcheck, so I’m kind of amazed that the spelling errors are still so prevalent. But they are and mostly all in bad scripts.

The excellent scripts I’ve read in the past and three for sure in the past couple of months were, not surprisingly, about 99% mistake free. (Thumbs up to Mike Maples, Emily Blake, & Eliza Lee)

I’m not reading the rest of that script I got 8 pages into. I’m calling the writer and telling her why, too. If she fixes it, I will happily give it another try.

Ok. Spelling and grammar rant over. Now... let’s talk about budget.

This is one subject that really gets some people in a lather. Should you pay attention to the budget of the script you’re writing? Or... should you just write the story you want to write and to hell with how much it will cost to make?

There are compelling arguments on both sides, but I come down on the side of paying attention to it, with a BIG unless...

If you are writing your big budget script as a writing sample, using it to try to get a big budget writing job somewhere down the line, I get it. That makes sense. I have a couple of those.

To expect to sell big budget scripts is a whole different matter. The truth is that there are very few producers or production companies that can make big budget scripts anymore that are pure specs. Maybe 5 or 6, tops. Maybe. And even those will make a script based on a sequel or a well known novel or a comic book or a cancelled TV show or a video game or an iconic cartoon or an amusement park ride or a board game before they’ll make a big budget spec. Hell… they’ll remake a previously failed film before they’ll make a big budget spec.

Now, before you fill my inbox with all the exceptions, I am aware of them and also know I can count those on my fingers in the last 5 years. You don’t even have to be paying much attention at all to see this trend. And add in unproduced writer to your resume and the odds go down a lot further.

But, as a writer trying to break in, if you write your scripts, or most of your scripts, with a budget of a million dollars or so, some maybe even less, there are tons of producers and production companies that want to read what you have and they can actually buy them and make them.

I am convinced that as a new writer trying to get noticed and optioned, right now, at this time in the industry, writing a great low budget film is the way. That may change, although I doubt it, with all the studios making safe tentpole Spiderman 14’s rather than something they have to take a chance on.

A great big budget script can help you if it’s for a writing sample, so you have to weigh it. But getting a big budget script read is also harder to do, in my opinion.

Write what moves you, but think about writing something lower budget that moves you, too. There are a lot more people out there who can read and option those.


I decided on the topic of this Blog before the subject of the Ghostbusters gender change hit the fan. I think I was a day or so ahead of the curve. But a day or so late posting it. We’ll blame it on Rock and Roll. My band, The BSides, had great gig this weekend at the largest Art and Wine Festival on the West Coast. Three hundred thousand people over two days.

We got up on the stage and played some kick ass music for an hour and a half. Played Mad Dogs & Englishmen’s version of “The Letter” for the first time in public and nailed it, thank you. It was, on the music front, a Triumphant weekend. But it kept me from publishing the Blog over the weekend like I wanted to.

We can start on my opinion about Ghostbusters. I LOVE the film. LOVE IT. Loved it from the first time I saw it when it came out and loved it every time I’ve seen it since. I see no reason to remake it, period. But… saying that… if you were to remake it, why not with women?  New dynamic. New directions in story. A whole new feeling. It could be great. It could suck. Just like any other remake. But it’s not something to pull hair out over. I’m sorry it’s a big deal. It shouldn’t be.

It worked with the Odd Couple, as one example of many, very well. I’ve seen a couple of all female versions of it and it was very successful. So why not Ghostbusters, if they want to do it?

And I’ve already Blogged in the past about my love of great female characters in film. I love writing strong women and stories that center around them. More now than when I first started writing.

I think I wrote my TV pilot script while I was still working on Nash Bridges, between my third and fourth feature scripts. It was a new take on a police procedural, something that still hasn’t been done by the way, and a couple of Producers thought it was great. Nothing happened with it, but c’mon, nothing happens with TV pilots when you’re a tiny small recurring actor on a series and not a writer. Or what they see as a writer. So it went back in my pile of unsold scripts.

When I got my manager, he asked for all my scripts, well… not at once. He wanted them sent in order that I thought they’d sell... (boy, was a wrong about that, too). I never mentioned the pilot. Then one day we were talking about pilots and I told him I had one and pitched it. Like everyone else who heard the idea, he loved it and asked to read it. And since I hadn’t even read it in ten years, my guess was it needed some updating. I was right. So, with ten more years of writing experience behind me I read it and found it lacking in a lot of ways and proceeded to rewrite it with a more 21st Century feel to it.

He loved it and now so did I. The one thing I didn’t notice, that I should have, was that the females were all background players. It was a Boy’s Club of monstrous proportions. I took what I had written twelve years before and updated the story, but not the diversity that it desperately needed. My bad. Despite that, it’s gotten some really nice reactions so far, but no bites. A couple of pretty front lines actors have championed it, but again to no avail. Then a woman exec at a network told my manager she liked it but they were looking for female centric series right now. And that brought about a conversation between my manager and me about maybe turning the pilot on its head and gender changing the main character.

It would immediately make the script kind of controversial because of the subject matter and the main character’s occupation. A woman in an extremely man-centric job. I couldn’t wait to do it.

The last two weeks have been spent doing just that. Turning the pilot on its head. Rewriting. Rewriting. And rewriting. His name was Jack. Her name is Althea. He was tough and strong. She’s tough and strong, but in a way more dynamic way. He was begrudgingly welcomed into a man’s world. She’s not going to be at all. His wife was understanding, but concerned at what he was getting into. Her husband is having all kinds of problems with it.

I’ve never had so many wonderful things open up in a script. Storylines have blossomed. I have two seasons worth of ideas of ways to make this woman singularly different from anything on TV now and that’s pretty exciting. It’s been a revelation.

Was I an idiot for not thinking of this in the first place? Maybe. But it was also twelve years ago and they probably would have told me to make it a man. Who knows.

All I know is that I love the pilot now and I can’t wait to see the reaction to it. It has a feeling of new to it, not just to me, but to the genre. A nice feeling if you’re the writer.